Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wresting Back My Self-Control

Ever since the honeymoon, my life has been entirely out of control. My eating is out of control. My lack of exercise (ie, my laziness) is out of control. My caffeine consumption is out of control. Even my personal reading is out of control. 

How, pray tell, could reading be out of control? Well, when you've devoured nine of the ten incredibly poorly written Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka the Sookie Stackhouse Books, upon which True Blood is based) in less than a month, something is dreadfully wrong. And as I sat at home, post-Memorial Day barbecue, with the 9th Sookie Stackhouse book in one hand and a red velvet cupcake in another, trying to ignore the empty photo picture frames and newly framed art lying around our floors from our half-done decorating attempt, I had to finally face the fact that something is truly off-balance in my life.

Since the relief of the wedding, I've been trying to hold on to the honeymoon feeling. I've been taking an extended "I deserve it" holiday from life, ignoring work and personal responsibilities.  I've been overdosing on every type of consumptive addictive product, both food and brain related. I'm willfully ignoring substantive options like delicious summer fruit in favor of stuffing my face with cream cheese red velvet icing. I'm turning away from house chores or even quality literature (like Her Fearful Symmetry, which is reproachfully staring at me from the table) in favor of mindless book crap. I seem to prefer this crap reading to any sort of personal improvement project, including posting our wedding items for sale or sorting through home items (like mismatched silverware) we need to take to Goodwill.

It's easy to lounge here in the lazy mess of the mindless consumption. But it also makes me feel gross and out of control. I've been feeling more and more out of control for weeks as I make half-hearted attempts at eating healthy foods or doing Serious and Important things which I then happily sabotage at 3pm with a cookie or a visit to a fluffy-but-addictive website. I tell myself that "next week, I'll be better." I tell myself "I deserve it, the wedding was so stressful and you haven't recovered yet from your adventurous but non-relaxing honeymoon." Perhaps, but there's also way too much of a good thing, and that's clearly the territory I'm wading in right now. 

So how do I wrest back control of my life from my baser self-sabotaging instincts?  My normal approaches aren't working. I'm ignoring the 6am workout alarms. I'm eating the lunch I packed and then still buying decadent snacks from the store in our office building. I finally turned to Jason and asked him for help, because I had to recognize that I can't do this alone, at this particular moment. Or rather, I could do it alone, (heck, I've done it before), but I would really really really appreciate the help and support. There's both a relief in knowing I have an amazing supportive partner and a sense of frustration that I can't seem to get started on my own.

This week, we're planning our meals together and keeping each other accountable.  I felt very virtuous turning down office candy because I felt like I had to be accountable to our joint effort and joint promise. But it still feels huge. It still feels insurmountable, even though I know the first week of sensible living is always the hardest as I readjust. And I feel grumpy because, quite frankly, I like crap food and crap reading (in small, regular, quantities they are a relief and a joy. Right now, they're just rotting my intestines and my brain.)

I know I'm not the first person to wrestle with newlywed weight gain  (which is less of a problem to me than my unbridled obsession with baked goods) or general malaise. But my malaise isn't due to post-wedding boredom or lack of purpose. I have so many work, personal, home, and blog projects that I barely know where to get started. So, instead of trying to fix everything (which is simply impossible and probably contributed to my continued out-of-control lazygirl excess) I've decided to tackle  just one issue this week. For me, I'm dealing with my eating habits (or lack thereof). And actually, I can't even think about it as a week-long project, because even that feels too big right now. So I'm breaking it down into teeny little baby steps of productivity. Meal by meal. I can't think beyond today and I can't think beyond the today's "don't eat cookies" food goals and that's how I'm dealing with the crushing weight of all my unmet goals and the oh-so-tempting crap that would happily suck me into a  vortex of out-of-control living.

Have any of you dealt with clawing out of this post-wedding lazy malaise? What worked? What hasn't? And for everyone in the process of clawing themselves out of the vortex, feel free to share your victories, however small they may be. Because I'm discovering that the baby steps count in a huge way. For me, I'm still cheering about my breakfast of oatmeal and a half-cup of berries. It may not seem like much, but it's one meal down in this lifelong battle for balance, health, and sanity.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Yichud


In many ways, our wedding day wasn't ours. And while that was something I sometimes resented during the planning process, the act of sharing and opening our wedding was ultimately the richest part of the experience. Non-elopement weddings are inherently about the public act of sharing your commitment and our wedding was so much bigger than something shared between me and Jason. Even, and perhaps especially, the ceremony. Regardless of how fully I was present inside our ceremony joy, it was something that we shared with (and was therefore expanded by) everyone in attendance.

In Jewish tradition, immediately following the ceremony, the couple goes into seclusion in a private room or space. In biblical times, this yichud was when the physical consummation of the marriage took place. In modern times, it's when the emotional consummation takes place, providing a few completely private moments to reflect on the ceremony and bask in each others' glow.

For us, our yichud ended up being one of only two private moments we had on our wedding day, both of which were infused with a deeply personal magic. Our quiet breakfast overlooking the Topanga hills was the first. Our fifteen minute yichud was the second.  It was the only time during the wedding itself that was gloriously, selfishly, ours, making it more personal and intimate than any other experience during the day, including our ceremony. 

For us, that yichud time was imperative. Our yichud was the pause, tearing space in our day for the gaping raw emotions to rush in. It left me physically shaking. I needed those fifteen minutes. In that time we created the emotional space necessary to start making sense of what had just happened. During the ceremony, I was almost too present, too immersed in the joy, for the hugeness of the shift to hit. Because make no mistake, a wedding is a huge thing. In our day to day life, I don't feel like much has changed. But when I pause and think about it, there has been a nearly-imperceptible-yet-vital shift. Our foundations were shaken that day and have never been quite the same. The resulting geography is familiar, but something happened to change things as we lurched forward during the upheaval of it all.

If I learned one thing from our wedding day experience, it's that everyone, Jewish or not, needs fifteen minutes of post-ceremony alone time with their new husband or wife. Maybe the hugeness will strike you during your ceremony, and the fifteen minutes will allow you to recover from it all. Maybe, like me, it won't hit until you're in the space itself. And maybe it won't ever hit during your wedding day, or the realizations will subtly dawn over time. But making space to experience your just-born marriage together is worth every moment stolen from the cocktail hour, portraits, or receiving line. Weddings and the sudden transition into brand-new marriage are powerful things, and the yichud gave me space to honor that.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ceremony


It never felt Huge. It never felt contemplative. It never felt like this picture looked: Big. Important. Spiritual. Huge. Of course, it was all those things, and those emotions registered in different ways throughout the day. But this image imparts a false sense of quiet calm, as if that was how I experienced our ceremony. It wasn’t. The serenity from our morning setup stayed with me and grew into an easy sense of assurance but, the moment I saw Jason, something cracked. Something cracked open in my heart, and the only thing that registered was giddy, nearly weightless, yet weighty, joy.

But it never felt Huge. Huge has a weight to it, a heft, a feeling of importance. I thought the hugeness would make me feel small, humbled by the moment. Tiny when bobbing in the middle of  a sea of love. Quiet with the weight of history as our vows connected us to the centuries of ancestors who had spoken the same Hebrew words at their weddings. I thought it would feel like the ceremony photos I’d seen from other weddings that had grounded me when I got carried away with unimportant details.


But that’s not what it felt like for me.  The most accurate way to describe how I experienced my ceremony is that it felt like relief, embodied. It felt like letting go, breathing deeply, and finally finding my balance again. I’d been holding my breath for months, for so long I hadn’t even realized it anymore.  The moment our ceremony began, I could finally let go of the planning and let the love back in. It felt like the world was finally right again, after months of being so terribly wrong, and I was too happy for it to feel huge. I was too happy with the relief of finally being emotionally home again with Jason to feel anything more than joy. I felt like my joy had no walls. Our outdoor ceremony that we’d fought for was the perfect setting for that feeling, letting my heart open and keep expanding further, without limit.


Only after we had each walked down the aisle with both our parents, did I turn to Jason. Physically. Emotionally. I finally felt it really begin for us. It was finally ours. I circled him three times and he circled me. We took hands and circled each other once, and entered into the chuppah. Our chuppah grounded my joy, giving me a place to rest and center the emotions. As I stood under my ceremonial home with Jason, a home we’d created and painted together, my joy could focus on the moment. We took each others’ hands, which finally made it all real, and which allowed me to finally feel present. To be Here. To let This happen.


We held hands throughout the whole ceremony, as we took in our Rabbi’s sermon, as we were warmed by the Jewish seven blessings from our family, as our friends made us laugh and cry with their readings, and as the ceremony we crafted unfolded around us. I only let go of his hands once, as we each read personal letters to each other. The world narrowed around him as I spoke. I couldn’t get through it without crying a few times. But the words I’d practiced, that had felt real and honest but somehow hollow at home, where I was still waiting for the hellish last months to just end... they came alive at the wedding. I’d always known they were the right words, but I suddenly remembered why. I could feel the why of it deep in my chest, where words catch and tears start.  I remember our community laughing and crying, but it was somewhere in the background. I was speaking only to him. I’d fallen in love again. Differently. More painfully and with knowledge of what it really means to choose, to commit, and to remain committed. It’s a richer joy. It’s an earned ecstasy.


Even in the calm, it felt like barely contained laughter. It never felt heavy, but there were moments when my ever-present joy knew it important enough to become subdued, at least until the unrepentant smiles won and burst through again. My mother said I was vibrating all day long, a low hum of electric joy. Friends said they’ve never seen a happier bride or couple. And although they were probably just swept up in the moment, I'm not sure any heart could contain more joy than I felt on my wedding day.


It didn’t speed by. It never felt rushed. It just felt right as I savored each moment, starting to believe again in our happiness. I’d missed Jason in the last lonely months of wedding planning. Our wedding gave me the chance to fall in love again. To revel in the love we’d always had. To be happy with him.  Under the chuppah we made together, we found our way home.


All photos by Kelly Prizel Photography

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

TruLu Couture, or Flowers in my Hair and my Heart

Before meeting Jason I had zero interest in weddings. I never daydreamed about my future wedding or white dress. I couldn't picture myself getting married, so why bother? But even when weddings were the furthest thing from my mind, the one thing I always knew was that, if I ever got married, I'd forgo a veil and wear a flower in my hair.

Although I briefly flirted with a veil during our engagement due to a combination of religious traditions and the fact that some veils are stylistically compelling (darn you french netting), I found my heart pulled back to flowers again and again. But when it came time to pick a flower for my outfit, nothing seemed quite right. I'd turn away from a Etsy searches three hours later, dazed, bleary-eyed, and even more confused than when I'd started. So when my blogfriend Louise from the Thirty-Something Bride started her TruLu Couture bridal accessory business, I jumped at the chance to a) support a friend in her new business, b) work with a talented costume maker/seamstress/designer to make a  custom hairpiece and c) carry a little bit of this blog community with me on the wedding day.

I took a leap of faith. Louise's initial offerings weren't quite my style. But it turned out she'd made those pieces for a specific event, and they weren't a real reflection of her style or skill. Even better, it turns out her real style incorporates vintage and found materials, handmade creations, and inspiration from Louise's world travels. Oh, and each of her one-of-a-kind pieces is absolutely stunning. And her craftsmanship is perfection (which isn't surprising, since she's a perfectionist).  When I sent her pictures of my dress and stuttered out an inadequate description of what I wanted (gauzy white flower, modern, feathers, a pop of fuscha to match my shoes) she worked with me, back and forth, until every  single detail fit the vision she was aiming for, which was long after I thought she'd made something I loved. She ended up creating exactly what I'd wanted but hadn't been able to articulate or see myself: an elegant, modern flower with a sly-but-stylistically-fitting hint of rebellion.


And then, she created a perfect hairpiece for a special girlfriend who was a rock throughout my engagement, combining 1940's Czech flowers with lavender vintage 1940's silk French tulle, fuschia tulle and mauve ostrich feathers.

When I took these pieces out of their package, I cried. My hairflower was was exquisite, in the way that any bride would hope for. But it was so much more than that too. This blog ended up being a lot more than a place to examine and vent about my wedding. It changed my wedding. It changed me. And it felt vitally important to have it with me on the wedding day, at least symbolically. Louise's hairflower was that symbolic piece of this blog community. 


After years of high-level corporate success, Louise has shifted gears to fully throw herself and her talent into this new creative and entrepreneurial endeavor, and I couldn't be more excited for her. To kick off her new website, new products, and promotional campaign, TruLu Couture is hosting a giveaway (with bridal and non-bridal options) over at Inconceivable Life (formerly San Francisco Budget Wedding).  So what are you waiting for? Go peruse Louise's TruLu Couture lovelies, go check out the giveaway that Sarah is hosting at Inconceivable Life (gah - I want that headband), and throw your hat into the ring before the contest ends tomorrow night (Thursday). And if you don't happen to win this contest,  Louise is offering free shipping on all store items  (like the Eugenie fascinator, which I waaaaant) for the next two weeks, so long as you email her at trulucouture [at] gmail [dot] com.


This is not a sponsored post. I just like supporting women who are brave enough to follow their dreams and who are talented enough to make things I really like. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On My 31st Birthday

I usually don't see birthdays as a time for annual reflection, possibly because the march of time hasn't ever really bothered me and possibly also because I do my annual self-checks at the Jewish New Years. I do however, love birthday parties. However, this year things have all become a bit muddled. I arrived back from NYC at about 2am this morning, so I'm too exhausted from burning the NYC candle at both ends to be excited about my birthday today. I'm too overwhelmed after the wedding to plan another big party, so a quiet special dinner for two sounds just about perfect for a birthday celebration (sometime in, um, June. When we have time.) And this year,  after the wedding upheaval, I'm finding myself at a major transitional point, so the birthday has inspired some deep musings as I grapple with the "what nexts" of my life.  

It's been about a month and a half since our wedding. I've already spent quite a bit of time frolicking in the wedding memories. But now that I've poured through our professional and friend photos about 800 times, I'm starting to tuck them away as happy memories. The honeymoon feelings have faded with the realities of long workweeks. I've outlined or posted a lot of the important recaps already, we're already talking about which photos to frame, and I can feel myself getting close to wrapping things up. To a sense of completion with this wedding. And I'm ready. I've been thinking about weddings since 2008, when it became clear that Jason and I were going to get married and I got a bit panicky about What It All Meant (and What It Would Cost.) I started writing this blog in August 2009, when we actually got engaged. It's now May of 2011.

I am so ready to move on.

But if I'm honest, part of me is also scared. Terrified of these next steps. Of the promises I've made to myself about what I want to accomplish, now that I have time again. Of the things I want to learn. Of who I want to be. We set so many goals on our honeymoon. I set so many goals for myself throughout this engagement, procrastinating until "after the wedding." And suddenly, it's after the wedding, and I need to face myself. I need to learn how to conquer new challenges. I need to get comfortable with discomfort again.

The wedding, although it was hard work, became easy to navigate mentally. I learned about weddings. I sorted through my discomfort with unfamiliar tasks (merging and building families, wedding logistics, fashion and personal style) and rose to the occasion. I've always had vague dreams of "becoming a writer" (ha. Like it just happens and you "become" a writer) and committed myself to writing in this space, which was easy when writing had a purpose and theme (navigating the crazy world of weddings and marriage) and a community of readers navigating the same crazy wedding transition.  

But weddings don't interest me as a long-term topic of conversation, for my life or my blog. I think I will always find weddings fascinating, both because my personal process has been life-altering (in important and teeny ways) and because lifecycle events are compelling in and of themselves. Weddings say something about a culture. The range of weddings and the challenges associated with authenticity and expectation has made me more closely examine my feminism, my understanding of class, the complex business of weddings, the women entrepreneurs powering those businesses, the way the internet is changing expectations about weddings and creating new ones, the mores of various subcultures, and the conflicting messages of our culture at large.

See? I can talk to you about weddings for hours in ways that don't reference my own and have nothing to do with gushing over designer dresses. I understand this world. I've conquered this challenge. I'm ready to move on.

But move on to what? That's where the discomfort begins. I have some ideas about directions I  want to pursue with the blog and, more importantly, with my life. I'm ready to make a big push in my career, where I've been treading water as I planned this wedding and dove into this blog. But I want more. More from life. More from my career. More from this blog. I'm stepping out of my comfort zone. Intellectually, I know I can handle it. I handled weddings and I'll handle and excel at something else. But onto what? I'm a little terrified.

I'm not the woman I want to be. Not by a long shot. I need to get serious about my career, which demands some real investments in time management, productivity skills, and networking in a male-dominated field (by the way, that sort of networking is really hard and I need to just deal with it). I want to get serious about my health, which requires a lot more meal planning and early morning exercise than I my night-owl, lazy-girl tendencies appreciate. I want to read again, engaging again in the nerdy news and economics sources I used to love and in fiction that I've forgotten. I want to scheme about how Jason and I can live abroad for a year (in the far-off future.) I want to scheme about near-term trips (we're tentatively planning a trip to Cambodia in 2013.) I want to get better about finances, because somehow the wedding made me much looser with all my spending, and not just wedding-related expenses. I want to save up a ton of money to prepare for the several-years-from-now future baby. I want to learn about how to invest in a way that feels comfortable to me. I want to develop a real sense of personal style that feels authentic, fun, and professional (when necessary) so people stop mistaking me for 25 (My face is very young looking so, even when I wear a great suit, I get dismissed as a 25 year old playing dress up. Really and truly). I want to make our apartment more stylish and cozy. I want to learn about photography. I want to write a book. I want to throw regular dinner parties. I want more woman-friend time.

Apparently, I want a lot. So I clearly have to add one more thing to the list: I want to become comfortable with NOT having it all and accepting that "having it all" is a myth, albeit a powerful myth that creates a lot of unique pressures and aspirations for women and (eventually, for me) mothers*.

So, as I turn 31, I'm thinking a lot about the woman I want to be and the life I want to build. And I get the sense that many of you are going through the same challenges and fighting against the pressures/pull of that have-it-all same myth.  And I think it's important to talk about these things. About the hard stuff and the fun stuff and about how imperfectly we're stumbling forward on these journeys. My apartment doesn't look like Apartment Therapy and the idea of homeownership in Los Angeles is so laughable that it's not even worth daydreaming about. My cooking isn't Smitten Kitchen worthy and I don't always make it to the farmer's market. I am not remotely cool enough to even know the fancy fashion/style blogs and I'm starting to wade around Corporette as I figure out my professional appearance. But I'm trying. And often I'm failing. And that's okay, because I think it's important to be honest about it and to find ways to laugh.

I think this is the direction I want to take the blog. A figuring-it-out lifeblog instead of a prescriptive or aspirational lifeblog/styleblog/finance blog. I'm not very interested in opening up my marriage for the internet, and I really feel like the best part of this wedding blog was sharing the journey of it all. And I'm still on a shared journey with many of you, namely navigating adulthood and constantly striving to be a better and more authentic person. I'm still working out the blog (and life) format. I'm still a bit terrified of what happens with the first post-wedding-recap, new life post. I'm scared enough that I haven't written anything yet. But it's my birthday today and it's the start of a new year and new challenges. It's time to get off my bum and jump in. 

So here's to a year of jumping in, heartfirst. Because my head is already there, and now it's about finding that spark of emotional fire in the everyday stumbles of life. I'm looking forward to it, and to hopefully some of you will be as enthusiastic about the life-stumbles as you were about the wedding-stumbles too.



*Sorry Mom, but I'm not planning on babies yet.  I'm focusing on becoming the woman I want to be first, before I jump into the additional challenges of motherhood. But I'm 31 now. So I'm obviously thinking about it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ketubah

Prior to the Jewish wedding ceremony, the couple join with their Rabbi and families to sign the marriage license and ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract. The ketubah was actually a revolutionary concept for its time, protecting the bride's rights and obligating the husband to look out for her welfare. Our modern ketubah reflects the equality of bride and groom by outlining our mutual obligations to each other, mixing ancient traditions and words with modern promises and sensibilities. 

We came together with a small group of family members, our wedding party, and our witnesses for the ketubah ceremony. We set aside the moment with song, filling the room with our voices and creating a sacred space to enter into the legal and ceremonial rites of marriage.


All photos by Kelly Prizel Photography
Ketubah design from Naomi Broudo, Fresh Ketubah Design

Friday, May 20, 2011

Guest Post at East Side Bride

Have I ever mentioned that I am obsessed with advice columns? Well, I am. Even embarrassingly bad ones. Total guilty pleasure reading.

Here's hoping my first attempt at writing an advice column falls more on the "good advice" than the "guilty pleasure" end of things, but you can judge for yourself if you check out my "Dear ESB" guest post over at East Side Bride.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Getting Ready

Champagne.
Laughter.
Makeup tips and shared confidences among girlfriends and new family.
Complete and utter relief that my dress still fit.
And the moment it all hit.



All photos by Kelly Prizel Photography

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fairy Dust Sparkles, or The Morning of our Wedding


We woke up at 7:00 the morning of our wedding, already mentally grasping for my to-do list. Until it hit me that the list was short: Set up our venue. Get prettified. Get married. As I found myself holding only the barest of task list wisps, I finally let something go.  I understood that our wedding day was going to unfold on its own, revealing itself along the way.  The only thing I could do was breathe deep and jump in.  So I joined Jason for breakfast of strong coffee, mango and plantains over a view of the Topanga Canyon hillsides from our bed and breakfast. We took it in for a moment: the lush green hills, the crisp air, the morning of our wedding. And then we drove over to the venue, ready to begin decorating. Ready. 

We arrived to find two carfuls of friends already at the venue. The rental delivery men were already there. They were all early. They were all eager and enthusiastic and ready to work. They were noisy and boisterous and excited about the wedding. They hugging and laughing and clamoring to help with whatever we needed.  I was flustered. I hadn’t expected so many people. I hadn’t expected people to arrive so early. I hadn’t sorted out task delegation yet. But as I looked around at a sea of 8:00 am smiles, my calm finally hit. We had enough help. We had enthusiastic help. I finally knew in my core that everything was going to work out. 

By the time the uhaul and another carful of friends arrived thirty minutes later, we were already pulling out tables and chairs from the storage closet, stringing papel picado from the ceiling, and laying out the reception space. We started unloading the uhaul, making sangria, setting out linens, arranging decor, stringing white lights, and cutting flowers. Some friends peeled off to pick up ice and some “oh shoot - we need this” items from a nearby Target. Other friends set up the ceremony site. Everyone was chattering and smiling and throwing themselves into whatever needed to be done.

I stood back at one point to just take it all in. My brother, Jason’s sister, my college best friend, Jason’s college friends, our local friends, and various partners were practically buzzing with focus, enthusiasm, and camaraderie.  My heart expanded. The morning was the embodiment of the emotional world Jason and I had created together over the last four and half years. The love from our friends and family was palpable. It tangibly came alive as our community jumped in, sleeves rolled up, to make our wedding happen.

Our wedding morning was fun. It was easy. In fact, it was the first easy moment we’d had in the last few months, and it started to heal things. The singing and laughter and joy lodged in my heart, helping me finally set aside any worries about the day or questions about the value of our wedding. There wasn’t any room for doubt as I allowed myself to appreciate our incredible friends and family and everything they were doing for us. I let myself believe in our wedding. I let myself know, really and truly know, that I was getting married and that our wedding would be sparkling with magic. Our community brought fairy dust magic with them and sprinkled it throughout our wedding day, with the glow of their love illuminating the essence of our life more clearly.

I could see the wedding we’d built actually coming together before our eyes, because of the community we’d built. I could see the point of it all reflected in their powerful friendship and love. It was better than wedding morning champagne and nail appointments. It was the best part of my wedding weekend. It was the moment that calm descended.

All photos taken by Jason and friends in giddy early wedding morning excitement.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Night Before

The night before our wedding, as we were getting ready for bed, I was already steeling myself for the disappointment of the wedding. I was looking forward to the food, and the dancing, and the party, but in many ways I’d started to accept that my wedding might never live up to my hopes for it. I was expecting a day of joy, although I was resigned to the possibility that I might not feel “present,” even though I would be able to recognize the happiness swirling around me.

These weren’t just overwrought neuroses. We had just left our welcome barbecue, which our parents had jointly hosted for our families, out of town guests, and wedding party. There were 100 people in my parents' backyard. There were hugs and “I haven’t seen you in forever” excitement. There was joy watching our families and friends mingle and get to know each other. There were toasts. There were earnest conversations and laughter. It was like a mini-wedding. It was amazing. I felt so lucky that our families had given our community time to ease into the wedding like old friends. I felt lucky, period.

But I also felt... removed. Intellectually, I knew I was having fun. I could feel myself laughing and smiling and meaning it. But inside... I barely felt anything. I was hollow from the stress, from a last minute wedding argument, and from the sheer exhaustion of the last two months. I remember walking around, so excited to finally meet and spend time with Jason’s extended family, so happy that my cousins and friends had flown in, and yet it was almost too much energy to smile. I was smiling from genuine pleasure, but it’s like the smile never warmed me. It stopped in my head and never made it to my heart.

I had been looking forward to this night for months. It was the night when everything finally was taken care of. There were no errands to be run. There was no to-do list left to conquer (aside from venue setup the next day.) I should have been able to be present, but I wasn’t. And I couldn’t quite tell where I was. Part of me was there, taking in the love of the toasts and the warm greetings. But part of me was just empty from everything it had taken to get here.

Even now, it’s hard to think back to the two months before the wedding. Yes, it was exceedingly stressful to plan a DIY wedding. Yes, it was nearly impossible to juggle my heavy workload, my “get these projects off my desk before the honeymoon” extra workload, my last minute business trips, and the wedding planning. Yes, our house was a disaster.  Yes, emotions were running higher for us and our families. But in our particular instance, getting to the wedding took reserves we didn’t know we had. Jason’s company was launching a major new product that would make or break the company... three weeks before our wedding. He was literally sleeping three hours a night, in bed by 5am, and on daily international conference calls at 8am. This went on for nearly a month, and then he disappeared for a week to Austin for the launch.

I was alone. I was planning the wedding myself. My rosy-eyed visions of how wedding planning would be hard, but we’d conquer it and grow as a team gave way to the loneliness of our reality. Given the strain Jason was under, he went above and beyond any human capacity to help with wedding tasks. But mostly, it was my responsibility, when I already felt overwhelmed with my job too (though it wasn’t anything like his.) I felt jealous that he could at least share his stress with his work team, buoyed by the enthusiasm and mission at his company. I wasn’t a part of what he was going though and I couldn’t do anything to help with the stress or the sleep. And on my end, with the wedding... it was just me. Alone.

Somewhere along the way, I realized this was one of those “hard times” that will happen in any marriage. One of the lows.  One of the times you just set your jaw and work through the all-consuming stress and keep having faith that you’ll move past this phase. One of the points when you love each other but you’re not “in love” because to be “in love” you both need to nurture each other, which we didn’t have time or capacity for. And I knew it would be okay again, and that we’d get back to a high and fall back in love. But it was a damn shitty way to go into my wedding.

After our welcome barbecue, I just tried to keep silent. I didn’t want to voice my worries that the wedding might feel the same way as the dinner. I couldn’t explain that I was still aching from the last two months in a way that a wedding might not heal.  I knew that I might feel the wedding joy, and yet that I might not be fully part of it. That I might be on the outside looking in. As we spent our last unmarried night together, Jason pulled me in close, the way he does that always makes things better. But it didn’t feel better. It just felt like his arms, and not like the emotional safety of our hard-times snuggles. And so I resigned myself. I steeled myself. I reminded myself again why we were doing this, and that our wedding would matter in the long term, even if I never felt present the next day. I reminded myself that we were investing in family, investing in community, and that these things would be enough. And I slept soundly, freed from expectation at last.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Flowers

I had a post planned for today. But then blogger went crazy and stole that post, along with yesterday's honeymoon photo post, all the comments, and a number of comments from earlier this week. Comments that made me get teary and happy, because I was talking about big important stuff and you left big important comments. So right now, I am in a bit of a foul mood. I apologize. I feel like blogger stole something important, and I don't have the heart right now to think about re-writing all the scheduled posts that blogger stole from me. So instead, I'm leaving you with flowers, because I've found that flowers help make things better. 

I wasn't planning on a bouquet but, at the last minute, I decided I really wanted one. When I desperately contacted a few florists, I realized it was out of my budget. So instead, spent an amazing morning at the Los Angeles Flower Mart with a dear friend, picking bouquet flowers along with our centerpiece sprays. We went a bit wild. We indulged our fancies. We found bold, playful, wild flowers that captured the spirit of everything I was hoping for at my wedding. And then another friend made it all come together in the most beautiful bouquet I've ever seen. 

Even though I never thought I needed a bouquet (and I didn't), it ended up being my favorite accessory of the day. The flowers were stunning. The colors and textures made me gasp and were truly the crowning touch to my attire. And holding it made me a bit calmer, as I drew strength from the memories of a morning spent with a girlfriend cavorting among flowers (we all need more cavorting during wedding planning) and from the friend who donated her floral arranging skills to make my wedding just a little bit more special. 

So today, I'm ending the week with my bouquet. For a burst of hope, joy, and beauty to send you into the weekend. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Breakdown Moment

If you are planning a DIY wedding (and probably even if you had an army of help along the way) there’s a moment in the days before the wedding where you’re going to lose it. Entirely, completely, and in a no-holds-barred ugly way. I can’t promise you won’t be triggered by something small and petty, or that you won’t take our your frustrations out on a loved one.  All I can say is that you you will probably have a moment when you  Just. Can’t. Take. It. Anymore. For some of you, a silent scream. For others, a noisy scream. And possibly hysterical, unstoppable tears.

I had no warning that my breakdown was coming. In fact, I was on a d*mn wedding-productive, conquer-that-task-list roll. I’d already made it though days of hellish mishaps and emotional tightrope walking. We’d worked our way through all the hard stuff on the to-do list and were in final GOGOGO mode the day before the wedding. I’d been up since 6am fixing things with our useless venue and doing the final check all my packed bags (rehearsal attire, set-up-the-venue attire, wedding attire, and honeymoon luggage). I was calm, cool and collected as I jumped in the car to meet a girlfriend at the Los Angeles Flower Mart by 8am, where I felt like a stylish budget wedding superstar after scoring a trunkful of beautiful flowers for our 21 centerpieces, miscellaneous silver jars, and bouquet flowers for just $217. Booyah.

I was even calm, cool, and collected enough to register that I needed more than one flower bucket to store this trunkful of flowers. So I swung by our apartment, repurposed some old gardening containers and a giant plastic Costco cat litter container, poured in enough water to keep the flowers fresh, and felt like a savvy problem solving genius bride. I might have danced around the apartment a bit, sashaying over to Jason and throwing my arms around him for a big ol’ gleeful happy dance kiss (or three).

I kicked off my shoes and ran to find my sneakers for the next task: hauling some of our booze up to our venue so we had enough space in the uhaul. As I went to pull on my socks, I looked down at my feet and completely and utterly lost my sh*t, screaming F*CK F*CK F*CK F*CK for at least a good minute before suddenly bursting into ugly messy sobbing tears.

Jason was at a loss. I was too disconsolate to properly explain and just pointed to my toes. Jason was still at a loss, which frustrated me even more, because COULDN’T HE SEE THE ABSOLUTELY RUINOUS STATE OF MY SPECIAL SPECIAL PEDICURE THAT I JUST GOT YESTERDAY??!!  The pedicure I’d squeezed in between family brunch and wedding errands and family dinner and way too much sweaty running around during the only “free” hour of my entire weekend? The pedicure that I needed, because my toenails are ugly and need nice polish to be presentable. The pedicure for my pink peep toe wedding shoes that was now RUINED. ENTIRELY RUINED. POLISH TWISTED AROUND ON MY BIG TOE IN A GIANT UGLY WRINKLED SWIRL OF CAKEY NAIL HELL!!

Unsurprisingly, Jason remained at a complete loss about my polish-related hysteria even after I sobbed out a semi-explanation. Wisely though, he understood that this breakdown had nothing to do with my nails and a lot more to do with: lack of sleep, insane emotional whirlwinds of joy and stress, a few completely haywire days in which every plan went to hell and an 11pm ambulance scare the night before (Oh yeah, that happened. Everything was fine in the end, but still. Ambulances during your wedding weekend aren’t exactly relaxing and joyous.)

So he gave me some space, told me to schedule another pedicure asap (BUT IT’S SATURDAY MORNING AND EVERYONE IS ALREADY BOOKED! WHO CAN SEE ME ON A SATURDAY?!) and told me he’d take care of the venue trip (BUT YOU CAN’T! THAT’S MY JOB TODAY! YOU HAVE SO MUCH TO DO ALREADY! WAAAAAAAAAH!) As I called around to local salons, trying not to sound like a hysterical crazy bride (which is hard, when you’re in the middle of a hysterical crazy bride breakdown), Jason and I reshuffled responsibilities to accommodate the sudden schedule shift. Jason would take care of the deliveries while I took care of last minute projects (adding table numbers to our placecards, signage, welcome BBQ preparations, rehearsal walk-through preparations). 

I managed to get a 10:15am appointment at my mother’s nail salon (mothers, customer loyalty, and dropping the phrase “getting married tomorrow” and “emergency” all helped) and dashed out of our apartment by 9:45 to make it. As I was waiting - calmer now - for my nails to dry, my mother walked in to the salon because she’d managed to destroy her manicure and needed a last minute touch up too. Luckily, she had addressed the issue without any tears. But then again, I wasn’t ever really crying about the nails. They just happened to be my straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back breakdown moment. It humbled me. It reminded me that I wasn’t keeping it together as much as I had thought. That I needed help. And that I was d*mn lucky the breakdown happened at 9:30 on Saturday morning so I got it out of the way before running headfirst into emotional ups and downs of our rehearsal, welcome barbecue (for 100 people) and the wedding itself.

So if you find yourself crying over nail polish, a broken belt loop, an innocuous well-wishing phone call from Uncle whoever, or whatever other minutiae sets you off... let yourself scream and cry a bit. If you’re in the unfortunate position of having your breakdown publicly, grab a trusted friend or family member and head off to a private corner so no one can joke about Bridezillas. Because this isn’t about Bridezilla bitching. This is about the moment it all hits you. This is about when you finally realize all the strain you’ve been under. And blessedly, once the tears have abated, this is about taking a deep breath and finally being able to let something go as you make some mental space to get married.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Wedding Is Bigger Than One Day

At many points along this wedding planning journey, I started doubting the point of all this work and angst. A low undercurrent of dread became my constant companion, whispering “this won’t be worth it. There’s no way this stress and expense will ever be worth it for just one day.” That’s when I had to scream at all the cultural messages belittling us for spending so much “for just one day” by holding on to the knowledge that for us, our wedding was much bigger than a single day. Our wedding was  vitally important to our family and our marriage.

I had the elopement fantasies. Somewhere along the way, they became more than joking fantasies as we descended into hard fights and stress-filled months. But I was resigned to the wedding and all the work and money we had to invest because for us, elopement wasn’t a real choice. Yes, the Mexican beach ceremony-for-two was always a theoretical option, but it was a choice that would have subtly-but-importantly affected our marriage for the rest of our lives.

I thought about how our parents would have responded if we eloped.* I think my pragmatic father would have been mildly hurt but proud of our financial savvy. My mother would have been very hurt  but, since her own parents couldn’t attend her weddings (either the first near-elopement or her backyard cake-and-punch wedding to my father), I think she would have learned to accept it. But when I tried to picture Jason’s parents and large tight-knit family reacting to elopement news, I went cold. It’s not that they wouldn’t have moved past it, eventually. But I knew the wedding was more important to them than a simple celebration, a Way Things Are Done Tradition, or a chance for  far-flung cousins to gather. I knew it would mark a turning point for me as a member of his family. I knew that the distance between California and Texas would get smaller after the wedding. I knew that, For Better or Worse, the wedding would make me family to them in a way that a marriage certificate couldn’t.**

So I set my jaw and settled in to the wedding planning process, having to trust that the wedding would matter. I already knew that the process mattered, that our arguments hurt because they were harder than discussions about budgets or guest lists as we faced down the realities of what it meant to build a family, to renegotiate roles with ourselves and our parents, and to define our new household. But I had to remind myself that the wedding would matter too. I found ways to stake a claim on our wedding - this wedding I didn’t always want -  by fighting hard for the non-traditional plans that caused so much logistical stress but which felt rightest to us. It left me bone-tired and bleary-eyed. I got to the point where I accepted that the  stress and expense of planning our wedding might never be worth it in a single-day sense. But I gritted my teeth and stayed focused on the absolute worth-it-ness of our wedding in the context of our lives. 

I was right to fight for our wedding and to fight off our self-doubt. For us, having a large family and community-filled wedding was an important turning point or our relationship and our family. We were lucky to have our wedding transform into something so much more than obligation, a truly amazing party, or a collection of deeply personal moments and promises. Our wedding was so much larger than the sum of its parts. There’s simply no description for how it feels to be surrounded and supported by that much joy. There’s no way to explain the feeling of knowing your family and friends truly support your marriage, so much so that you can almost sense their love propelling you down the aisle. There’s no way to adequately describe how a wedding reception can be more than a celebration when a party joins with purpose, love, and group revelry.  It's hard to really get across how, if the marriage is right, everyone is simply so d*mn happy for the couple that they won’t care two whits about centerpieces, fancy food and alcohol, favors, dresses, DJs or anything else you’ve been stressing over. They’ll just care about sharing in the joy.

Good weddings - and by that, I mean weddings where the couple is right for each other and entirely in love - expand the hearts of everyone in attendance. There’s something powerful about love let loose for a day. We let down our guard, our sense of propriety about keeping messy passionate kisses private, and all scream YES as the couple says "I love you. I am taking a huge leap of faith with marriage because I believe in our love. I know that marriage will be d*mn hard but I believe in us. I believe in our rock-solid core. I believe in passion and laughter and fighting and hospital visits and silly Sunday afternoons with you. YES."

The YES of it sweeps you up, if you let it, even if you’re sitting in the back row of the ceremony seating. We saw it in the tears. We felt it in the tight speechless hugs. We got swept up in it during the multi-generational dance-floor frenzy. We savored it all over again in the photos and heartfelt, letter-length guest book messages.

Our wedding changed things for us. Our wedding made us family. For me and Jason, we became family during the engagement and wedding planning, as we worked through issues that cohabitation hadn’t necessarily forced us to address. For our community, the wedding day itself made us family when they all could join us for the Yes. They could witness and confirm the love. They could help build, share, and grow the celebration. They could get swept away by the rightness of it all. Doubt - about the non-traditional nature of the wedding, the along-the-way snafus, or even about the marriage itself - crumbled in the face of that much love, joy, and commitment. For us, the point of having a wedding wasn’t to have One Special Day to proclaim and celebrate our love, however, that love illuminated our day and made the wedding worthwhile for reasons that will last throughout our lives.

Moments of our family/community love and undeniable joy captured by Kelly Prizel


*Note these are all my suppositions. We never raised the issue with our families.
**The decision to elope is very personal and different for each couple. And the reaction of family members may often surprise you, as will the forgiveness and eventual acceptance. But we knew that, for us and our particular situation, elopement would have been a mistake.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

People Will Let You Down

Even harder than when logistics and wedding plans go wrong is when people let you down. And they will. Some rude jerks won’t show up to your wedding, despite their RSVP, and they might never provide an explanation. Some people won’t write cards or leave gifts (gifts, I understand. Times are hard and gifts aren’t the point. But when those same people didn’t write a well-wishing card, it hurt.) And some people may be selfish and awful in ways you’ll probably never forget. People who should know better. People who matter.

It’s one thing to understand that people are limited, and to even know their particular limitations before the wedding. But I kept thinking that people would rise above who they are for a wedding. And some of them will. Most of them will. The majority of people at your wedding will blow your mind with their generosity and joy. But your wedding is more important to you than it is to anyone else. And your wedding won’t miraculously make people become who they aren’t. And someone may behave in a hurtful manner. Perhaps even a really hurtful matter. It’s not necessarily personal, it’s probably just selfish and limited. But it’s still really a really hard thing to experience and deal with at your wedding.

But you have to deal with it. Or, more specifically, you have to put it aside. Up until the night before the wedding I was dealing with the small pains, trying to make people happy. Trying to fix their issues. Trying to smooth things over. Trying to be a great hostess and ease our way into a wedding day in which everyone was happy and joyful. Well... that’s impossible because some people were simply set on being miserable. But I tried my hardest and, once I’d given it everything I had to give, I could absolve myself. It was no longer my fault if someone was unhappy, it was their own. And since I clearly couldn’t fix their issue, I allowed myself to stop thinking about it. Their small-mindedness no longer mattered to me. I woke up on my wedding day and it was no longer my problem. When their selfishness made an appearance at the wedding, I decided I felt sorry for them, washed my hands of the emotional blackmail, and turned back to my joy.

If you can’t fix it (and often, you can’t) then you have to stop worrying about it. I tried to fix it up through the night before the wedding. And then I let myself sink into the joy. I didn't let them touch the important stuff. 

The glorious flipside to the truth that “people are limited” is that “people are generous.” For every person who let us down, twenty more above-and-beyond surprised us in incredible ways we didn’t ever dream possible. Their enthusiasm, out-of-their-way assistance, generosity, and raw expressions of joy will crowd out and overwhelm everything else. Let that happen. Focus on that and hold their love close, because that's where the real soul of your wedding resides.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Things Will Go Wrong

Everyone tells you that things will go wrong at your wedding. In my logical brain, I knew they were right and that no matter how meticulously I planned and how on-the-ball I was (and really, I was all over that darn ball) something would go to pieces. I watched things fall apart in the days before the wedding, and yet I still didn't really believe it. I lived through a Thursday-Saturday in which the gods took one look at our schedule, laughed at us, and sent chaos to wreak havoc instead. But we recovered. We shifted priorities, called in favors, and worked ourselves into exhaustion to get back on track.  I thought the wedding would be more of the same, in a worse case scenario.

But the wedding day is different. When the gods laugh, you can’t fight back. There’s no more time to right the wrongs. You can either take a deep breath and accept it or let the challenges spoil the day.

We were pretty darn lucky, overall. Yeah, we should have had a double-sized buffet so 150 people didn’t have to wait so long in line (I swear I’d meant to arrange that.) I was horrified to discover that our green plastic cups were being used for sangria instead of the rentals (the green cups were supposed to be “just in case” glasses. Oh well. I got over it when I remembered they were holding delicious sangria that got entirely consumed, despite the plastic cups.) Yeah, we forgot to take two portraits we’d really hoped to have. And yeah, we forgot to bring our lunch/getting ready snacks for us and our hardworking wedding party (we left them at the venue, where our hardworking wedding party hopefully nibbled during the morning setup).

That was the easy stuff to shrug off. But there was big stuff too. Our shuttles - which we required most guests to use because there was limited parking at the venue - completely failed us. The three buses managed to pick people up at the hotel without incident... and then proceed to leave everyone at a private residence a few blocks away from our venue. The buses ignored our meticulous directions (“don’t rely on GPS - the location is hard. Use these directions instead!”) and ended up endangering our guests by heading up a twisty teeny canyon road where a bus had no business going. As the bus tried to back away from the residence and towards the main road, our guests were so terrified that they voluntarily got out and walked to the wedding.

Picturing elderly guests, women in heels, and even able-bodied, sensible-heeled friends walking along the twisty canyon road still makes me fume. Not only was it an embarrassment to our planning, it’s the sort of inconvenience/discomfort that can subtly poison someone’s first impression of an event.  Or their second impression of the event, when the shuttles also failed to provide transportation between the ceremony site (at the bottom of a long hill) and the reception hall (at the top). Emilia Jane and friends with cars pitched in instead.  And then, despite some angry phone calls, the shuttle drivers decided they couldn’t drive up to the reception hall at the end of the night and told our guests to walk the quarter mile down a dark, unlit canyon road to meet them. Some people did it, before Emilia and a few (sober) wedding guests yet again used their personal cars to again shuttle people down the hill to the buses.

And yet somehow, in the end, everything was okay. People maintained their good moods (lovey happy weddings can do that) and just treated it like an adventure. I saw friends walking up the hill in their finery and took a cue from their laughter that everything was okay. I decided not to become a paranoid hostess because, really, what could I do besides hope the laughter continued and ask Emilia for help?  It’s not that she could take care of it as well as I could have, it’s that she could take care of it better.  She had a car. She didn’t have 150 people making oh-so-happy demands on her time and attention. So I had to smile, thank everyone for being such good sports, point them towards the bar, and let it go.

The best you can do is smile, be grateful for the things that are going magnificently well, and trust that your guests will take their cue from the positive joyful energy. The moment they see your smile, 99% of them will follow suit and smile back. Happy begets happy. Joy begets joy. And that’s the magic of weddings.